The memories come in a rush; Ian Poulter staring down the whole of America on that mad Saturday afternoon of rampant sporting theatre when Europe began to inch back from the precipice, Poulter and Bubba Watson geeing up the crowd on the first tee on Saturday morning, Keegan Bradley holing everything for three sessions and storming on to the tee box shortly after 7am on the last day to whip the fans into a frenzy, the missing Rory McIlroy emerging from a police patrol car on Sunday morning and munching on an energy bar on his way to the tee as if he were playing the medal at Holywood Golf Club, Justin Rose curling one in from 40 feet to claim the 17th, Martin Kaymer momentarily frozen as the winning putt dropped.
And then at the end of it all the European players emerging in little clusters from the back of the clubhouse draped in blue flags and posing for photos with a few savvy punters, who took a chance on the shuttle buses in the car park being deployed to take our heroes to the closing ceremony. McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Nicolas Colsearts, Peter Hanson and Darren Clarke duly stopped by before the taxi whisked them off to the speeches.
Looking back to Friday there was no sense that an epic event was upon us, so few were the dramatic clues at the outset. The first day was almost anticlimactic from a European point of view with America establishing a 5-3 lead after sharing the spoils in the morning. Saturday morning? More of the same, America threatening to erase all tension from the contest at 8-4. Only Poulter and Justin Rose were on the board for Europe. By mid-afternoon America were 10-4 to the good, Webb Simpson and Watson's 5&4 drubbing of Rose and Francesco Molinari exemplifying the one-sided nature of the contest.
And then, like returnees emerging at the desert's edge after being given up for lost, Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia edged Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker at the last to log a vital point for Europe. Donald admitted later to being buoyed by the miracle unfolding behind. Poulter, full of fist-pumping fury, drilling putts from all angles. A two-hole deficit with six to play turned on the last with a sixth successive birdie for Poulter and McIlroy, who started the ball rolling at the 13th. After that it was all Poulter. Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner did nothing wrong. Far from it. They birdied three of the last five holes but that wasn't enough to repel Popeye Poulter.
Kaymer had endured an awful spell and would not have been anywhere near this team had he not clung to 10th spot in the qualifying pool, yet it was he on whom providence dumped all her chips in the penultimate match. He looked nervous. Everybody looked nervous. This was it, the moment that would decide the Ryder Cup. A 10-footer for glory... Get in!
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